Breaking from a monarch started the first environment where all citizens would eventually experience freedom. Strangely, not long after every citizen was finally able to enjoy this freedom – people happily gave it back. Today, US citizens seem more like chickens in a coop than independent and free people. We enjoy a nice roam outside the coop, but at night, most of us come back to the comfortable and safe space prepared for us.
For most of history – people followed a king, because, well, they had always followed a king. Life was predictable; it was great for the king and any royalty, and miserable for everyone else. Independence was a truly radical idea – especially for an entire nation.
Today though, Americans don’t seem to value that very much. We happily stay in line, doing as we’re told – as long as we’re fed. We buy the same things – and take pictures of what comforts our money affords us. Why is it the hard won, formerly fierce independence is being handed back to politicians and government? It’s as if people are saying, ‘Here, we don’t need freedom anymore.’
Let’s revisit our car for a moment.
Do you remember that? It’s on fire, in mid-air – it’s been driven off a cliff?
Individual independence acts like the brakes on the car. They help keep it at a reasonable speed, slowing it down when approaching dangerous conditions. If we have a bad driver, people can apply the brakes themselves, preventing an accident. Without good brakes, we approach treacherous roads going too fast – momentum and inertia taking the place of reasonable driving. Once it is going too fast, it’s impossible to steer the car.
Certainly, life is much easier today than it was even 50 years ago. Modern medicine, technology, everything on demand at our fingertips, an endless stream of new products— all produce a standard of living unseen in history. This is beautiful in ways, but also cautionary. When daily living is so easy, people lose perspective and begin to ignore the warning signs. They enjoy the good life.
The car gains speed.
We see this in todays language. The public is referred to as “consumers.” Not citizens, not independent people— we are referred to primarily by what we buy. Not what we create, not what we dream of. “Consumers” are groups of people that buy predictable products, in predictable ways. Consumers value safety and security over difficulty or discomfort.
Now, formerly fiercely free citizens take the easy road. Corporations sell us more stuff. The media tells us more stories. Our own government works to extract as much as it can from us. And as long as we get some new products, new comforts, some free stuff and just an easier life – we go right along.
While independence doesn’t need to harken back to muskets and militia, it also doesn’t need to mean a system where each of us is just a consumer. When people think for themselves, use their brains, and think carefully about the world – they are indirectly ensuring that our country moves forward at a reasonable pace.
Independence gives us the tools and the healthy suspicion of those that would tell us what to do. When we abandon our independence for comfort and group think – we are ultimately letting ourselves down. When we simply do what we are told, when we all hand over our independence – we become very easy to control.
We should remember, that humans are the actual innovators. We should not be chickens in coops, we are not meant to be like animals in cages. We should remain free.
As you feel our car skidding and sliding as it heads towards a cliff – remember, you don’t even have to be in this car. You can use your brakes, your independence – to slow things down and go where you want. Independence means each of us has our own map. When each of us does that, our shared car might not go quite as fast, but it’s also a lot less likely to crash.
To learn more, read all 10 short stories on What Is Wrong With America.